Aikido is turning into The Constant Really Neat Thing in life. I sometimes have no energy or motivation and have to drag myself to class, but that's part of the good, too. Part of what makes aikido good, I think, is the fact that everyone is getting together to create something which doesn't involve talking. Kind of like the weekend I spent at Zen Mountain Monastery: everyone was there to practice, and the support of others is very important--Buddhism's Three Treasures are Buddha, Dharma (the teachings), and Sangha (the community in which you practice). But in the end, everyone practices for their own reasons, and their journey is their own. There is generally a purity of purpose: whatever the problems in the rest of my life (and while I'm not about to be homeless or anything, I think my problems at this point are not insubstantial), when I go to the dojo, I'm there only to practice, just like everyone else, and everything else can to some degree fall away for a little while everyone gets thrown around.

Not that I forget. Part of the challenge is focusing on class and not dissociating off into thinking about Unhappy Things. I think about Unhappy Things the rest of the time. Class time is set aside for practice.

Tonight I stopped doing rolls for a little while. Kayla-Sensei and I tried to fix them before class, but eventually even my left shoulder started hurting. I think what's happening is that my muscles and joints are tightening up a bit as I get back into shape, and my arms and shoulders are not taking that quite as gracefully as, say, my legs and stomach. So the arms and shoulders have been complaining constantly, sometimes so stiff I can't flex my arm all the way. Kind of funny, that getting your body into good physical shape actually requires a little bit of damage (which gets healed--some amount of the muscle pain and stiffness comes from muscle fibers tearing as they get used). The important trick is to not do anything permanent that would cause me to stop training. I really hate it, because I want to just train and be able to do all this stuff without any problems. At least I can still do back falls, which are loads of fun.

There's this nine-year old kid in class, and he's a trip. He's been training for two years, and he's very disciplined, but at the same time he's nine, and I've never met a kid who was self-disciplined before, instead of having had discipline imposed by authority. He brings a great energy to class. always cutting loose with huge kiai ("spirit voice"--energetic shouts), bouncing around all the time. Today was the first day I'd ever practiced with him, since usually he's partnered either with his mom (also in the class, but having trained for eight months) or with one of the senior students. In part I think this might be to ensure that he doesn't get hurt, but I also found today that I outweigh him by 120 pounds if it's an ounce, and the fact is that if he really, really tried to throw me by twisting my wrist or whatever, I could almost certainly find a way to swat him like a mosquito; so there's a challenge in figuring out exactly when I was supposed to lose my balance and hit the ground.

I keep looking in the mirror, and over the past few years I've gotten, for lack of a better term, beefy. It's not just that I've gained a bunch of fat, although that certainly enters into it; even though I stopped growing in height, my shoulders and chest kept expanding, giving me really solid, thickened arms and shoulders that I'm still not used to (once upon a time, I was actually skinny). Wacky.